App allows users to plant trees in Inner Mongolia

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A televised charity show called “Looking at trees in Alashan” has attracted much attention over the last few days. It does not feature a television anchor or a talk show, but rather eight ordinary people who travel to Inner Mongolia to look at the trees that they planted through an app. Since the show has an audience of about 200 million, it may become the world’s largest charity broadcast.

The popularity of the show points to a larger trend, which is the creation of new fundraising methods that utilize the internet to solve various social issues. The background to the show is as follows: in August 2016, Alipay released a new environmental product called “Ant Forest,” which allows users to pay for a “virtual” tree and water it. After users have virtually watered their tree to maturity, Alipay contacts a real-life social organization to plant actual trees. Up to now, 200 million bell hammer trees have been planted in Alashan, Inner Mongolia through user donations.

“We originally intended to plant the trees quietly and tell the donors after they have grown tall. We did not imagine however that the contributors would start asking to see where their trees had been planted and whether someone was watering them”, says a spokesman for Ant Gold Enterprise Society. “Some Ant Forest users told us this is their first time feeling like they have contributed to positive world change.”

Online charity products and services have become increasingly original over the last year. During this year’s “Two Sessions” of the Chinese parliaments, a deputy to the National People’s Congress made headlines by applying through his phone to become an organ donor. An Alipay function allows users to become an organ donor with one tap of a button. Since its release last December, one million people have signed up to become organ donors.

The original intent of such online chairty products was to utilize commercial strategies and methods to fix social issues. It can be foreseen that once the potential for online charity products has been realized by other online service platforms, there will be a multitude of innovative charity products on the web.